Sep 29, 2003

Family ties

Finally. I know I have a lot to say and yet finding the energy to say it hasn't been easy. It's because it's all so emotional for me and there's so much, I have to think about organizing my thoughts.

What follows is obviously from my point of view. Just want to make sure you keep that in mind.

The Arrival
My mother came to visit on the 19th. She came to visit her mother who's been in the hospital (see Sept 18 blog) as well as me. Grandma said to me earlier this summer, "I'm going to ask you something and I hope you don't get upset." She wanted to know if I minded her inviting Mom over from the States. I didn't. But the fact that Grandma asked in that manner should clue you in as to how things are in my so-called family.

Grandma didn't get around to calling her daughter herself. Once again, she fell and ended up in the hospital. I e-mailed my mother and relayed the request.

My feelings have been mixed: A part of me was looking forward to seeing my mother again; another part of me was wary, remembering past fights and hurts. I realized that the little girl inside of me still longed for her mommy. The adult me was far from that enthusiastic. I decided to have as few expectations as possible; the upside to that is that it usually leads to being happily surprised. :-)

So emotional, mushy me teared up on the way to the airport, and teared up again at seeing my mother. She hadn't changed. Still looked like herself. (Truth is, none of us change much in this family.) Still sounded like herself.

The Visit
We still share a sense of humor. Or rather, I remember her sense of humor and I still laugh.

She was here for 5 days and nights. Every evening we walked to the bus and rode to the hospital. Grandma didn't recognize her daughter at first (but she didn't 9 years ago, either). We talked about all sorts of things. Mostly my mother talked. She told of her life in the States, her work, her activities. We both still share an interest in the paranormal and things related, but politically, we're very wide apart now.

I notice some things about my mother, stuff that may have been there the whole time but that I see more clearly now. My conclusion is that she is afraid (of loss) and she may also feel very alone.

Our family has never been close. We've never really been emotionally demonstrative, either. As long as we aren't discussing feelings (i.e. getting personal), we seem to do all right. But the moment we get into anything that may hurt or touch a tender spot, we are on the defensive. Makes it hard to get close. For me, it makes it hard to take the chance on closeness. As I said above, I remember past fights and hurts.

There was a moment when the old pattern made its presence known. But I didn't respond to it. I stayed calm, letting the moment pass. I recognized what I now call The Game. The Game played between my mother and I seems to be Who Of Us Had The Crappier Childhood; it's an unspoken competition between us which frustrates me since she's my mother and therefore partly responsible for my crappy childhood. But recognizing The Game and listening to some things she told from her childhood also clarified a few things from my childhood. Still, I don't need any more dysfunctional parenting. If my mother and I were just friends, not relatives, it would all be so much easier. But she's my mother.

The Departure

I was once again feeling emotional and tearing up as my mother and I rode in a taxi to the airport. Once there, we said our goodbyes without one tear falling and no "I love you's". At that point, I was relieved. I was so oddly – empty.

I had decided to see her plane take off. When the screen read that her flight was "Now Boarding", I teared up. When the screen read "Gate Closed", I teared up and for one moment wished that she'd come bounding up the stairs, telling me she couldn't leave me. My little girl wish. (This is what she should have done when I was 8 years old, and going off to Norway the first time. Neither of my parents had the sense then to tell me that they were sorry to lose me and that they would miss me.)

Except for the two moments of tearing up, I felt nothing. Both baffled me, the emotion and the lack of it. When I saw the actual plane take off, I felt nothing. I just thought, "What a fat-looking plane." Kind of short and wide, y'know? But it was hard to keep in mind that Mom was inside it.

I couldn't make sense of my feelings. I sent messages to a couple of friends about the successful visit but confusing departure. One reply suggested that I would know in a few days, when everything had calmed down.

Well, I didn't want to wait a few days. When I got home, I was pretty tired. So I put on my favorite meditation/nap music and stretched out on the couch, with my cat in my lap.

The first scene from my meditation was me, standing in the midst of a churning sea, completely dry. Right where I was there was calm, but everything around me was severely agitated. I didn't like it. I felt like all my work at maturing, at getting a grip on my own childhood and my relationship with my mother was for nothing because I seemed to not love my mother!

The next scene was me in a calm garden, talking to an old crone. I told her that I didn't know what I was feeling, that I was surprised at my calm. She said, "That's what strength feels like." The one thing I never wanted to let my mother do to me again, was hurt me. And she didn't. She couldn't. And she can't. She'd have to make a huge stink to get me to react now, and it just wouldn't be worth it. It would only make her look bad.

Still, something didn't sit right with me. "Am I strong because I no longer love my mother?" That bothered me. The crone wanted to know why. If it was true, I said, then it was something I had to keep to myself. To let my mother know that her own daughter didn't love her would be to hurt her terribly; it would be cruel. "And you care whether or not she's hurt?" the crone asked. "Yes, I do. Very much." ...Oh... I do still love her. I was relieved. (My mother's not perfect, but she's mine. And I guess that's part of my growing up: Realizing I'd rather love her than hate her or cut her out.)

The Aftermath
I have since realized that I am strong in other areas. My mother has not spent the time with her mother that I have. When Grandma goes, I will miss her, but I will have many good memories to look back on. My mother doesn't and I think she realizes that (hence my comment above about her being afraid of loss). I don't know how much longer Grandma will be around. I've done and said what I've needed to say and do. My mother tried to while she was here. I have to make sure that Grandma heard that.

One thing that has always impressed me about my grandmother is that no matter what, she has never stopped loving her daughter or worrying about her. She has always wanted the best for my mother. She has always wanted to see her daughter happy.

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